An angel came to visit me a few days ago. Actually his name was Angel, and he needed help. I wasn’t sure what kind of help he needed, but it was clear he was in need. His clothes and shoes were well worn, he used a cane and I could tell he’d been on the street for a while. He told me he had been to several agencies and churches but they had turned him down, citing their lack of funds for helping people like him.
The more I listened to him the more I realized he 1) just wanted someone to listen to him, to recognize that he, too, was a human being and 2) that he just wanted to contact his wife in Mexico to let her know he was all right. He had a cell phone, a pay as you go phone, but had no minutes left. I gave him some money to buy a phone calling card and he was grateful for the small gift.
That was the last time I saw Angel.
But I’ve been thinking about him, and the reality many people like him live with every day. I’ve been acutely aware of how a person can sit outside of the market with some sort of sign explaining their need, and most people will pass by as if they are not even there.
I understand how some people are reluctant to offer help to a complete stranger, someone who looks down and out. What I don’t understand is how churches and agencies do the same. Oh I realize there are rules and regulations, and that some of these folks are trying to scam the system, but aren’t we being disingenuous when that becomes the excuse to ignore all who are in need?
Yes, some of these folks are rude, and they might smell, and they don’t want to follow rules, but aren’t they still human beings? We agonize over a lion that was killed, and ignore the plight of fellow human beings? I agree that a lion is a magnificent creature and should not be a victim of someone’s desire to kill for the thrill. Or the trophy.
But human beings are magnificent too. In fact, the Psalmist claim we were made a “little less than divine, crowning us with glory and grandeur.” (Psalm 8:5) How have we gotten to a place where the Angels in the world are less cared for than the lions?
Part of the reason, I believe, is the cultural Christianity that exists in our country today is shaped more by the American myth of rugged individualism than the Scriptural call to form communities of faith that look out for the well being of all concerned all the while seeking a justice that restores the entire community to wholeness and health.
The Christianity I hear described by many church evangelists, and politicians is characterized by an insistence that material success equates with God's blessing. So if you're poor it's your own fault. These so-called Christians think they know who is in and who is out when it comes to receiving God’s grace. And many of us are out. Including me if you believe the person that told me I was going to hell because I was a pastor that accepted gay people into our church. This person knew this for sure because they had read the Bible, and that’s what it said.
The Bible I'm familiar with is filled with a lot more compassion and grace than the Bible many use to judge and condemn. Compassion and grace especially for the least and lowest. Don't believe me? Check out Hebrews 13:2.
There are Angels among us. Maybe we need to pay more attention to them.